The United States and nine other countries today put before the Security Council a resolution that "deeply deplores the destruction" of a South Korean airliner by "Soviet military aircraft," but the Soviet Union immediately served notice that it would veto the draft.
American and other Western diplomats said the text was worded in the mildest possible form, with no outright condemnation of Moscow and no overt demand that the Soviets pay compensation to the families of the 269 people aboard the Korean Air Lines 747 shot down Sept. 1.
Officials explained that a mild resolution was needed to win the maximum votes possible on the 15-nation council, and thereby demonstrate Moscow's isolation.
Even though the Soviets are sure to veto the proposal when it is put to a vote on Friday, diplomats said, it will still represent the minimum demands of the international community.
Among other provisions, the resolution recognizes that under international law there is a right to "appropriate compensation."
It declares that the use of force against civilian aircraft violates the norms of international behavior "and elementary considerations of humanity."
It asks U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar to conduct a full investigation of the tragedy and to report back within two weeks.
It urges all nations to cooperate in efforts by the U.N.'s International Civil Aviation Organization to strengthen safety measures for commercial flights and "prevent any recurrence of such use of armed force."
The U.N. agency has been called into session in Montreal next Thursday to consider the airliner disaster.
Soviet Ambassador Oleg Troyanovsky, asked about the resolution, told reporters that "in the framework in which it's been presented, we'd have to oppose it."
The text was formally introduced at tonight's council meeting by the Netherlands, on behalf of itself and nine cosponsors. They are the United States, Britain, France, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Malaysia and Fiji.
It mentions the Soviet Union by name only once, in a preamble saying that the council is "gravely disturbed that a civil airliner . . . on an international flight was shot down by Soviet military aircraft, with the loss of all 269 people on board."
A second reference to the Soviet Union, in the paragraph that deplores the destruction of the plane, was deleted this morning at the request of France. American officials agreed to the change as a trade-off for added support.
In addition to votes from the sponsors sitting on the council--the United States, Britain, France and the Netherlands--western officials expected China, Pakistan, Togo, Zaire and Malta to vote for the resolution, and hoped for support from Jordan, Zimbabwe and Guyana. The other three council members are the Soviet Union and its allies, Poland and Nicaragua.
Western diplomats expressed hope that the broad support of their stand in the vote and in the five days of debate would increase pressure on Moscow to cooperate in working out an agreement that would prevent the repetition of last week's tragedy.
"We hope the U.S.S.R. will be prepared to reconcile its need for air defense with the need for the safety of civilian air travelers," said one ambassador.
Some American officials, suggesting that Moscow showed no signs of conciliation, indicated a preference for keeping diplomatic pressure on Moscow by taking the issue to the U.N. General Assembly, where no veto exists. They said there have been no international consultations on such a move, however.